Friday, August 31, 2018

'Monica Lewinsky & Anti-Bullying - In Real Life' and 'The Talk - My Black is Beautiful x P&G' among nominees for Outstanding Commercial at the 2018 Creative Arts Emmy Awards

I concluded yesterday's oil and price report and driving update by telling my readers to "stay tuned for the last post of the month, which will continue the series about this year's Emmy nominees."  I'm following through by returning to the topic of last year's 'Love Has No Labels' and 'Women's March' among 2017 Emmy nominations for Outstanding Commercial by looking at the nominees for this year's Outstanding Commercial, starting with two public service announcements (PSAs).

The first nominated PSA in alphabetical order is Monica Lewinsky & Anti-Bullying - In Real Life.

In a plea for civility, the PSA asks "If this behavior is unacceptable in real life, why is it so normal online?"  My readers can find part of the answer by reading Who's hiding under the bridge of an online science article? and More on the science of trolling.  The other is that it shouldn't be.

The next PSA nominee is The Talk - My Black is Beautiful x P&G.

I agree.  "Let's talk about 'The Talk' so we can end the need to have it."

Follow over the jump for the truly commercial nominees in this category.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Oil prices going up again because of Iran sanctions, highest gas prices since 2014, and driving update for August 2018: Pearl

Pearl's odometer rolled over 42,000 miles yesterday, so it's time for another driving update.  Before I do, I'm repeating what I did in May, examining the effect of the U.S. leaving Iran nuclear agreement pushes on oil prices.  For that, I turn to Reuters, which reported yesterday Oil rises on Iran sanctions, lower U.S. fuel inventories.
Oil prices rose on Thursday, extending gains on growing evidence of disruptions to crude supply from Iran and Venezuela and after a fall in U.S. crude inventories.

Benchmark Brent crude oil LCOc1 was up 50 cents a barrel at $77.64 by 1130 GMT. U.S. light crude CLc1 was 40 cents higher at $69.91.

Brent has risen by almost 10 percent over the past two weeks on widespread perceptions that the global oil market is tightening and could run short in the next few months as U.S. sanctions restrict crude exports from Iran.

Iranian crude exports are likely to drop to a little more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in August, against a peak of 3.1 million bpd in April, as importers bow to American pressure to cut orders.
U.S. light crude, also known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), has been around $70/barrel since May.  The bad news is that is high; the good news is that it hasn't gone higher — yet.  Just the same the result has been the highest gas prices in four years, as USA Today reported this morning in Gas prices: After most expensive summer since 2014, expect some relief at the pump.
Gasoline prices could tick higher heading into the Labor Day weekend, but motorists are expected to get a reprieve this fall.

The coming relief would be welcomed by travelers and commuters, who endured the most expensive summer at the pump since 2014, according to AAA.

As the final busy travel weekend of the summer approaches, Americans are paying about $2.84 a gallon, 46 cents more than a year ago. That amounts to $6.90 extra per 15-gallon tank.

But barring a disruptive hurricane or international incident that could push up energy prices, drivers are likely to pay less at the pump this fall.

AAA is forecasting that prices this autumn could average $2.70, down from a 2018 high of $2.97 around Memorial Day.
As I wrote six years ago, Eye spy the gas price rollercoaster about to coast down like a parachute.  Of course, it does that every autumn, so USA Today and I can predict lower gas prices with confidence.  Doing so won't take away that gas prices this fall will still be higher than during the same season over the past four years.

Now for the driving update.  From July 17th to August 29th spanned 43 days, so I drove Pearl an average of 23.26 miles per day, 709.3 miles per standard month, and 8,488.4 miles per year over that time.  That's a lot more than the 15.15 miles per day, 462.12 miles per standard month, and 5530.3 miles per year I drove her between May and July.  It's also more than the  16.39 miles per day, exactly 500 miles per standard month, and 6905.4 miles per year I drove Pearl during the comparable period last year.  That's because, instead of flying to the Coffee Party USA's annual board retreat, I drove across the state.  In the grand scheme of things, that probably made my carbon footprint lower than if I had flown to Colorado, our usual location for these meetings, but that's just a justification.  Still, that trip did not push my actual miles driven per year above 7,000, as it took 398 days since Pearl passed 35,000 miles on July 27, 2017 until she rolled over 42,000 miles yesterday for averages of 17.59 miles per day, 535.0 miles per month, and 6,419.6 miles per year.  Hah, despite my driving to the other side of Michigan and back, I'm still below my goal of driving an average of 6,500 miles per year.  Success!

Stay tuned for the last post of the month, which will continue the series about this year's Emmy nominees.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

'Born This Way,' 'Deadliest Catch,' and 'United Shades of America' — society and nature in reality TV programs at the Emmy Awards

Even after writing about documentary nominees I still have more to say about nominees depicting nature and politics at the Creative Arts and Primetime Emmy Awards.  For that I'm turning to a category that gets less respect, reality shows.*  I begin by recycling what I wrote about the nominees for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program last year.
The political show here is "United Shades of America," which examines race relations in America with a light touch.  However, I doubt it will win.  "Deadliest Catch" has won twice and "Born This Way" is the returning winner.  I watch "Deadliest Catch" occasionally, as it has a nature aspect, but "Born This Way" makes its own subtle political point, so I would be O.K. with it repeating.
The same three shows earned the most nominations for unstructured reality show this year with the difference being that "United Shades of America With W. Kamau Bell" being the returning winner.  I'll get to Bell's CNN series after I examine "Born This Way," which has the most nominations in the genre with four, Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, Outstanding Casting For A Reality Program, Outstanding Cinematography For A Reality Program, and Outstanding Picture Editing For An Unstructured Reality Program.  I'm modifying what I wrote last year about this show making a subtle political point into it making an explicit social point about acceptance of differences and celebrating what makes us all both human and special.  Those make this a worthy program.

While it didn't repeat as Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, losing to "United Shades of America With W. Kamau Bell," it is still the returning winner for Outstanding Casting For A Reality Program and Outstanding Cinematography For A Reality Program.  Its competitors for the casting award for a reality program are all either competition or structured reality shows, "Project Runway," "Queer Eye," "RuPaul's Drag Race," and "The Voice."  That's tough competition, enough so that, as much as I hope it wins, I'm not optimistic about its chances.

The returning winner for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, as I mentioned above, is "United Shades of America With W. Kamau Bell," which  also earned nominations for Outstanding Host For A Reality Program and Outstanding Picture Editing For An Unstructured Reality Program.  I watched two episodes of this show the weekends after Anthony Bourdain died.  I found it fascinating, and not just for its humorous take on race and race relations.  I had no idea Bell was three-time Hugo winner N.K. Jemisin's cousin until I saw Bell interview her on his show.  I also saw little distinction between "United Shades of America" and "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" even though they are in different categories; the line between an informational nonfiction show and a reality show must be very fine.  I'm sure it also helps that they are promoted in different categories so that they don't step on each other at awards time.

The above image depicts Bell's fellow nominees for Outstanding Host For A Reality Program.  Bell faces stiff competition, in particular from RuPaul, who is the returning winner of the award as well as the current winner of the Critics' Choice Award.  By the way, any of the nominees winning would be a victory for diversity, as four of the six nominees are LGBT, two are African-American, and  RuPaul is both.  I'm rooting for RuPaul, whose shows make quite the social statement of acceptance and self-expression as well.

The most nominated reality TV show that takes place outdoors, pitting humans against nature, is "Deadliest Catch" with three nominations, Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, Outstanding Cinematography For A Reality Program, and Outstanding Picture Editing For An Unstructured Reality Program.  It is the longest running and most award-winning of the nominees, spanning 14 seasons since 2005 and earning 16 Emmy Awards, last winning all three of the categories in which it is nominated this year in 2015.  By the way, its awards history reflects the fine line between informational nonfiction and reality programming, as it was nominated for Outstanding Sound Mixing for Nonfiction Programming as recently as 2016.

The last nominee for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program that examines nature is another outdoor reality show, "Naked And Afraid," which I consider to be what "Survivor" would be if it really were about humans versus nature (Player versus Environment or PVE in MMORPG parlance) instead of humans pitted against each other in social competition (Player versus Player or PVP).  I prefer PVE and nature, so I'd probably like this show.

Competing against "Born This Way," "United Shades of America," "Deadliest Catch," and "Naked And Afraid" for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program are "Intervention" and "RuPaul's Drag Race: Untucked."  I doubt either of the latter two have much a chance at winning this category, although both examine serious social issues with the last doing so obliquely and light-heartedly.  Instead, I'm rooting for "United Shades of America" to win again.

"Life Below Zero" did not earn a nomination for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, but it did garner nominations for Outstanding Cinematography For A Reality Program and Outstanding Picture Editing For An Unstructured Reality Program.  It is competing against both "Born This Way" and "Deadliest Catch" in the first category along with competition reality shows "The Amazing Race" and "RuPaul's Drag Race" and structured reality show "Queer Eye."  As I mentioned above, "Born This Way" won Outstanding Cinematography For A Reality Program last year, so I expect it will win again.  In the second category, it faces all three of "Born This Way," "United Shades of America," and "Deadliest Catch" along with "RuPaul's Drag Race: Untucked."  Here, "Life Below Zero" holds the trophy and would be my choice to win.

I'm done with unstructured reality shows for now, but I plan on writing more about the Emmy nominees after I post a driving update.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Part 3 of Sears, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse

In Part 2 of Sears, a tale of the retail apocalypse, I wrote "As Sears closes more stores, expect to see more scenes like this.  When that happens, I'll post a third part to this mini-series."  On Thursday, Sears Holdings did just that, as Wochit Business reported in Sears Closes 46 Store Locations.

Business Insider reports, "Sears is closing even more stores. The department-store chain was once the largest retailer in the United States but has cut its store count in half in the last five years." Forty-six of it's [sic] store locations are set to close in the next year. They include 13 Kmart stores and 33 Sears stores. Their closing sales are starting on August 30th, and after these next 46 locations close that brings up the total number of their locations that have closed to almost 300. The company made this announcement, "We continue to evaluate our network of stores, which is a critical component to our integrated retail transformation, and will make further adjustments as needed."
The map above shows one of the locations in this latest wave is in Jackson, Michigan, which is in a mall where I shopped when I I lived out in the country.  I found an MLive story about the closing, but no video.  The article mentioned that it was the only Michigan location closing announced last week, but noted that stores in "Flint, Traverse City, Dearborn, Troy, and Sterling Heights" were already in the process of shutting down.  Troy?  That wasn't on the list of outlets I referenced in Part 1 of Sears, a tale of the retail apocalypse.  It turns out that it was announced in July, as WDIV/Click on Detroit reported in Sears closing at Oakland Mall location in Troy.

The Sears at the Oakland Mall in Troy will be closing.
My wife and I have shopped at that Sears, although we prefer the Macy's there.  Just the same, this is the first sign that the Oakland Mall, which I thought was getting a little long in the tooth when we went there, is starting to die.  It will take a while for it to close like Northland Mall, but unless it gets a replacement anchor, the process has officially started.  That hurts, although my wife and I have a Sears just a bit closer at Twelve Oaks Mall.  I don't think that one will close until the entire chain goes under, which should happen next year, as Twelve Oaks Mall is still thriving.  When that happens, it will hurt.

I conclude today's episode of the ongoing story of the Retail Apocalypse with USA Today explaining the emotional impact of retail chains declining and closing in Why seeing Sears stores close hurts hearts.

With Sears closing stores amid a mountain of debt, the end may be drawing near for the iconic American retailer, and many of us aren't ready.
I've been mourning ever since I posted Vox on America's dying malls as failed third spaces in April.

Monday, August 27, 2018

R.I.P. John McCain, the last Republican presidential candidate I voted for

I wrote that "I plan on returning to my regular programming" in yesterday's entry.  Sadly, my regular programming includes obituaries.  Saturday night, I heard and read that Senator John McCain died.  CBS News has the story in Remembering the life and legacy of Sen. John McCain.

Arizona Sen. John McCain died Saturday night after a 13 month battle with brain cancer. Doug Wead, presidential historian, interviewed the senator multiple times. He joins CBSN's Elaine Quijano to discuss how McCain's experience in the military impacted his time in politics.
Seven years ago, I noted that I voted for John McCain in the 2000 Michigan Republican Primary in If I were still a conservative.  I also wrote that it was my last act as a Republican, as I left the G.O.P. shortly afterwards.

To commemorate McCain's life and service, Climate State uploaded John McCain: Climate Change Most Critical Issue of our Future (2003), which shows one of the reasons I voted for McCain 18 years ago and also why I stopped being a Republican later that same year.  It's also one of the reasons why I did not vote for McCain in 2008, as the G.O.P. abandoned climate change mitigation as an issue.

Senator John McCain introduces legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (January 8, 2003, at Capitol Hill).

Witnesses testified about proposals to limit greenhouse gas emissions, global climate change, and regulations that would create mandatory limits on all sectors of the economy.
Mr. LIEBERMAN. Mr. President, I rise today to join my friend and colleague, Senator McCain, to introduce the first ever comprehensive legislation to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases in the United States. Today we take the first step up a long mountain road, a road that will culminate with this country taking credible action to address the global problems of our warming planet. The rest of the world is now taking on the challenge this problem presents. The United States, as the world's largest emitter of the gases and the home of the world's strongest economy, must not have its head in the clouds.
As I also wrote seven years ago, "Liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, I've always been an environmentalist."

Farewell, Senator.  Rest in peace.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Adam Ruins Going Green: Student Sustainability Video Festival 79

As I promised yesterday, today I am sharing two clips from "Adam Ruins Going Green" that my students have shown.  First, Adam Ruins Everything - The Corporate Conspiracy to Blame You for Their Trash.

Yes, littering is terrible. But why should consumers shoulder all the blame for bad corporate habits?
Next, Adam Ruins Everything - Why the World Needs the Paris Agreement.

When it comes to the shaping the future of our planet, the entire world needs to come together. Adam Conover's joined by Dr. Dale Jamieson, Professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophy at New York University, to explain how individual action can encourage collective responsibility.
I can tell Trump doesn't watch "Adam Ruins Everything."  If he did, he might not have pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

That's it for this series until December.  I plan on returning to my regular programming tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Hurricane Harvey: Student Sustainability Video Festival 78

Yesterday, I examined how hurricanes form.  Today, I look at a specific hurricane, Hurricane Harvey, through two videos one of my students found this semester.  First, Hawk hides from Hurricane Harvey in taxi, refuses to leave from International Business Times UK.

A Houston taxi driver made an unusual friend during Hurricane Harvey. William Bruso returned to his taxi after getting food to find a hawk sitting on the passenger seat. Dubbed Harvey, the Coopers hawk refused to leave his shelter. Bruso made sure the bird wasn't injured and tried to release him but Harvey seemed unwilling to brave the storm on his own. Eventually, Bruso agreed to let the hawk stay until the hurricane has passed.
I have never seen a raptor so tame that wasn't under the care of a falconer.  When I said that, my study group leader suggested that Harvey might have been a falconer's bird that escaped.  I can believe that.

The student showed a more serious video next, When the roads turned to rivers: Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey from the Washington Post.

"People are more resilient than you think," says a Houston resident. Watch this Washington Post original documentary on how Southeast Texas is dealing with the devastation Harvey left behind.
The student could only show the first three minutes of this video because of time requirements, but the entire video shows why The Washington Post earned a News & Documentary Emmy nomination for Outstanding Breaking News Coverage for its coverage of the 2017 Hurricane Season.  My student had very good taste in video selection!

I promised to blog more about Hurricane Harvey in the comments to 2018 on track to be fourth-warmest ever.  Consider this entry a down payment.

Stay tuned for episode 79 tomorrow, which will be a clip from Adam Ruins Everything, although not the one from the episode that won an award from the Environmental Media Association for Television Episodic Comedy.  I might get around to that in the future.

Friday, August 24, 2018

How do hurricanes form? Student Sustainability Video Festival 77

When I'm either grading papers or traveling, I post episodes of the irregular series Student Sustainability Video Festival.  From now through Sunday, I'm doing both, so it's time to resume where I left off with Seeker/DNews and Vox on food waste: Student Sustainability Video Festival 76.

Today's featured video is How Do Hurricanes Form? | Seasonal Science | UNC-TV.

Ever wonder why hurricanes only happen during certain months? Wonder no more!
Not only is it hurricane season, today is the 26th anniversary of the Florida landfall of Hurricane Andrew, so this video is doubly appropriate.  As I wrote last year, this storm continues to have lasting effects, not least of which are Burmese pythons invading the Florida Everglades.

Stay tuned for episode 78 tomorrow, which will be about Hurricane Harvey.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Sex, money, and campaign finance violations — Vox explains the Michael Cohen plea

The day before yesterday, Michael Cohen pled guilty to eight charges, including two campaign finance violations.  The next morning, Vox uploaded Michael Cohen: Sex, lies, and campaign finance.

Trump’s former personal lawyer pleaded guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations related to hush money he paid to women accusing the president of extramarital affairs.
Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer and fixer for Donald Trump, has admitted that he violated campaign finance laws when he paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniel in the weeks before the 2016 elections.

Now that Cohen pleaded guilty on eight federal charges, including two campaign finance violations, the biggest unanswered question is whether the president will also be held accountable.
In all my coverage of candidate and then President Trump, I've written about his being too chummy with Vladimir Putin and Russia, how bad he is for climate, energy, and the environment, his punitive actions on immigration, his penchant for conspiracy theories, and how he generally increases risk of disaster.  I have even blogged about Trump's sexism, but I couldn't find an example of my mentioning Trump in a sex scandal.  Today, that changed, not because of the sex, but because of the campaign finance violations.  Sex and Trump, boring — Courser and Gamrat were more interesting.  Trump violating campaign finance laws — that's worthy of notice.

Cohen plea was not the only conviction of one of Trump's former associates.  NBC News reported Paul Manafort Convicted On 8 Counts; Mistrial Declared On 10 Other Charges | NBC Nightly News.

Paul Manafort was convicted of five counts of tax fraud, one count of failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts and two counts of bank fraud. A mistrial was declared in three counts of failing to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, and seven counts of bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy.
I plan on following the next trial, too.  Stay tuned as the scandal continues.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Michigan state health director to stand trial for manslaughter in Flint Water Crisis deaths

I last mentioned the Flint Water Crisis in the context of "Flint" winning environmental feature film of the year at the 2018 EMA Awards.  While the dramatized movie about the Flint Water Crisis is winning awards and being nominated for an Emmy Award as Outstanding Made for Television Movie, the real story continues to unfold.*

Yesterday, WXYZ reported MI health chief Nick Lyon heading to trial on manslaughter charges in Flint water crisis case.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon will stand trial in a case tied to the Flint Water Crisis. A judge bound Lyon over on two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of misconduct in office. Judge David Goggins found probable cause that Lyon failed to perform his duties to protect the public and that he failed to notify the public in a timely basis.
This case is not about lead poisoning of Flint's water supply.  Instead, it's about the mishandling and coverup of an outbreak of Legionnaire's Disease in Flint that happened concurrently with the lead contamination.  Just the same, it's related.

I'm not optimistic about the trial happening soon, as pretrial hearings have been going on for a year.  In addition, as seen and heard in the WXYZ report, the defense plans on appealing.  MLive has the full statement from Lyons' attorney in Defense says court will “reverse decision so fast, it will make your head spin” in Flint water ma[nslaughter case].

Defense attorney John Bursch, who represents Nick Lyon, speaks after Genesee District Judge David J. Goggins bound Lyon’s case over to Genesee Circuit Court for trial on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, on two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of two men and one count of misconduct in office. Lyon, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, also faces one misdemeanor count of willful neglect of duty.
This isn't stopping the prosecution one bit.  Despite the title of Nick Lyon's Attorneys Expected To Appeal Judge from Fox 47, the Attorney General's spokeswoman claimed victory.

An attorney for Michigan's top health director says he will appeal a judge's decision that sends Nick Lyon to trial for charges connected to the Flint water crisis.
I expected something like the spokeswoman's statement, not just because it's what prosecutors do, but because Attorney General Schuette has been using this case to distinguish himself from Lieutenant Governor Calley to earn the Republican nomination for Governor.  He can point to this as a reason to vote for him.

Despite the PR boost for Schuette, I'll be sure to follow the case, whether a trial happens or not.

*I still plan on writing an entry about "Flint" and the other nominees for Outstanding Made for Television Movie next week.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A comparison of two measures of media bias shows readers and viewers respond to both ideology and quality

In Alex Jones removed from Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify, prompting free speech concerns, I mentioned the Media Bias Chart (above), which rates news sources on their bias and quality.  The next day, FiveThirtyEight displayed another chart about media bias from Nieman Labs that showed Democrats see most news outlets as unbiased. Republicans think they’re almost all biased.  After seeing both, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two to see if they agree and if they share any common patterns.  Besides, I've found it's a good idea to listen when the universe is talking.

The first chart from Nieman Labs displays "'net bias' scores for news organizations: 'the percentage who see each as ‘not biased at all’ or ‘not very biased’ minus the percentage who see each as ‘extremely biased’ or ‘very biased.’ On this measure, positive scores indicate that more people consider the news source unbiased than biased, and negative scores mean more people consider it biased than unbiased.'"

The news sources with positive scores in this study all fit in the green top box of the Media Bias Chart as "fact reporting" and "original fact reporting," although the order differs; the Media Bias Charts ranks the Associated Press highest, followed by ABC News and CBS News, then NPR and PBS, followed by USA Today then The Wall Street Journal.  However, three sources that the Media Bias Chart displays in the green box as quality outlets, NBC News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, all have negative scores.  Both The New York Times and The Washington Post fall in the "skews liberal" column, while NBC sits at the left end of the three broadcast networks, although still in the "minimal partisan bias or balance of biases" column, so conservatives may see them as biased despite the quality of their reporting.  To test that, I'm sharing charts of the perceived biases of news sources side-by-side with the results from Democrats on the left and Republicans on the right.

Nieman Labs quoted the original study's findings.
“Democrats, including Democratic-leaning independents, tend to see most news organizations as unbiased, except for Fox News, Breitbart News, Mother Jones, the Huffington Post, and Vox,” the authors write. “Republicans, including Republican-leaning independents, tend to see all news organizations as biased. The two exceptions are Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.”
Sure enough, Republicans think that NBC News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post are all very biased, while Democrats consider them relatively unbiased.  In addition, Republicans appear to be picking up the slight differences in bias among other news sources.  Of the outlets with positive ratings, The Wall Street Journal skews conservative, while PBS, CBS News, and ABC News are all arrayed from right-to-left in the top center box, exactly the same order in which Republicans rate them as being biased.  In addition, the Media Bias Charts shows the Associated Press slightly to the left of PBS, which could be enough to flip their order on the chart from Nieman Labs of net bias.  All this is enough to make me conclude that for fact-reporting sources, slight differences in ideological slant are enough to affect their perceived bias by readers and viewers.

For sources that fall in the analysis, opinion, and propaganda boxes, ideological positions appear to be less important than the quality of reporting.  Both Democrats and Republicans think Vox and Mother Jones are biased, but Republicans think that CNN is more biased than either, while Democrats rank it between USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.  Looking at the Media Bias Chart might explain why.  While CNN is only as far left as The New York Times and Washington Post, it straddles the line between fair and unfair interpretations of the news, so its quality of reporting is rated lower than Vox, Mother Jones, and MSNBC, all of which present fair interpretations of news according to the Media Bias Chart while still in the "skews liberal" and "hyper-partisan liberal" columns.  The Republicans seem to pick up on this, rating CNN as the most biased news source, even more so than MSNBC, which makes no effort to hide its liberal leanings, especially in its evening shows.*  Both liberals and conservatives consider The Huffington Post as biased, an assessment the Media Bias Chart agrees with.  It also considers its reporting to be unfair interpretations of the news, so its lower quality places it below CNN on a survey of all respondents.  Finally, the most biased sources overall are Breitbart News and Fox News, which are both "hyper-partisan conservative" and "nonsense damaging to public discourse."  Democrats drive that rating of Fox News, as they consider it the most biased news source, while Republicans consider it the least.  The power of ideology returns!  At least both sides agree that Breitbart is biased.  That's reassuring.

*I think they are right to consider it biased, but I think it's a personal bias against Trump, not an ideological bias against conservatives.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Putin and Trump-Russia at the Emmy Awards

Last month, I made a prediction about this year's Emmys in a comment I left on Twelve Ham Sandwiches with Russian Dressing at Kunstler's blog: " likely to earn a News and Documentary Emmy nomination or two for 'Putin's Revenge' on Frontline."  My prediction came true, as "Putin's Revenge" earned two News & Documentary Emmy Award nominations for Best Documentary and Outstanding Writing.  As I wrote in my original blog post, "I like sequels to award-winners.  It makes it easier to identify possible nominees, especially if the same creative teams are working on them."

Competing against "Putin's Revenge" for Best Documentary are "Chasing Coral," another film I thought would earn an Emmy nomination, "The Witness" from Independent Lens, "Life, Animated," an Oscar nominee for Documentary Feature in 2017, and "My Love, Don't Cross That River" from POV.  Out of that field, I'm rooting for "Chasing Coral," but "Life, Animated" is very tough competition.

"Putin's Revenge" faces a less tough field for Outstanding Writing, "Alma" and "The Wounds of War" from 60 Minutes, fellow "Frontline" episode "The Divided States of America," and "Cries from Syria," which tied for fourth in my ranking of the most honored political documentaries of 2017.  Out of all these, "The Wounds of War" and "Cries from Syria" are probably the toughest competition, as both have four nominations each, tied for the most nominations for any single entry with "Charlottesville: Race and Terror" by Vice News Tonight.

Too bad "Putin's Revenge" did not receive a nomination for Outstanding Research.  The program showed its work in INTRODUCING: The Putin Files | FRONTLINE Transparency Project

Now, you can see what we've seen - hours of reporting - from everyone we've interviewed, on the record, at your fingertips. This is "The Putin Files" - the complete archive from the FRONTLINE's documentary, "Putin's Revenge" - part of FRONTLINE's Transparency Project.
I'll have more if "Putin's Revenge" wins either or both awards.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

'Jane,' 'Icarus,' and 'Blue Planet II' — Nature, science, and politics in documentaries at the Creative Arts and Primetime Emmy Awards

For this week's Sunday entertainment feature, I am continuing my examination of science and nature at the 70th Emmy Awards that I began last week writing about Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and NASA being nominated by moving on to the documentaries.  I begin by quoting a paragraph from 'Flint' and 'Jane' win environmental movies of the year at 2018 EMA Awards.
I wrote an entire entry about "Jane" being the best documentary not nominated at the 2018 Oscars, so of course I'm thrilled that it won this honor.  It deserved it, especially against the relatively obscure competition it had.  Just the same, I now have more movies I can recommend to my students as extra credit films they can watch.  As for "Jane," I predicted that "both 'Jane' and 'Abacus' will be eligible for News and Documentary Emmy Awards this fall, where they will be favored in their categories."  Both are nominated for those awards, so I will write more about them in the near future.  In the meantime, congratulations!
I actually underestimated "Jane."   While it wasn't nominated at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards this year, it earned seven nominations at the Creative Arts and Primetime Emmy Awards: Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking, Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera), Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera), and Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program.  "Jane" is finally getting the recognition from a major awards show that it deserves.

Competing against "Jane" for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking are "City of Ghosts," "Strong Island," and "What Haunts Us."  I ranked both "City of Ghosts" and "Strong Island" as the top two political documentaries of 2017 while this seems to be the first nomination for "What Haunts Us," one that IMDB hasn't even bothered to list yet.  While "City of Ghosts" and "Jane" earned earned nominations at the BAFTA Awards and "City of Ghosts" won a Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award, both were snubbed for Best Documentary at the 2018 Academy Awards, while only "Strong Island" earned an Oscar nod.  I'm thrilled to see all three recognized together, even if it took the Television Academy to do so.

As for which will win, note that only "Jane" has more than one nomination at the Emmy Awards; all the rest only earned single nominations for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking.  To establish a ranking, I'll let the points system I've used before tell the tale.  Adding one point for each of the seven nominations and two points for the EMA Award to the 29 points "Jane" had as of March 3rd yields 38 points, while adding the EMA Award and four missing nominations to the awards I count listed on the documentary's IMDB page yields 42 points.  Before this nomination, "City of Ghosts" had 25 points from awards programs other than film festivals.  With the Emmy nomination, it has 26.  "Strong Island" had 16 points in March; it now has 21.  "What Haunts Us" only has one, although I suspect this will change, as the film was released in 2018 and is eligible for awards for this year's documentaries.  Just the same, the numbers support my personal preference, which is for "Jane" to win.

"Icarus" has already won Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards.  Now the movie has a chance at three Emmy Awards — Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special, Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program, and Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program, the latter two in direct competition with "Jane."  Despite its winning an Oscar, I'm not sure that "Icarus" is the favorite to win Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special, as its competition consists of "Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond - Featuring A Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention Of Tony Clifton," "Mister Rogers: It's You I Like," "Spielberg," and "The Zen Diaries Of Garry Shandling," four nominees about show business, three of them about Hollywood.  As I mentioned for "Birdman" and Meryl Streep narrating "Five Came Back" last year and "Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405," a film about Hollywood "is enough to get the Motion Picture Academy members to vote for it if all other factors are equal" and "Never underestimate the power of Hollywood voting for a good film or show about itself."  The best hope for "Icarus" lies in the films about Hollywood splitting the vote and the same anti-Trump sentiment that led to "The Handmaid's Tale" sweeping the last night of the Emmys to win five awards last year combines with the continued anti-Russian sentiment that helped it win an Oscar inducing people to vote for it instead of "Mister Rogers: It's You I Like," the other nominee that anti-Trump sentiment in Hollwood might rally around.  I'm not optimistic, but then I didn't think "Icarus" would win the Academy Award, either.

The number of Emmy nominations for each nominee supports my uncertainty about "Icarus" winning.  "The Zen Diaries Of Garry Shandling" ties "Icarus" with three nominations, "Mister Rogers: It's You I Like" has two nominations, while "Spielberg" and "Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond - Featuring A Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention Of Tony Clifton" appear to be the weakest competition with just the one nomination each for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special.  On the other hand, the point system I use awards "Icarus" 17 points for its wins and nominations, "Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond - Featuring A Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention Of Tony Clifton" six, "The Zen Diaries Of Garry Shandling" and "Spielberg" tie at three each, and "Mister Rogers: It's You I Like" has only two.  "Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond - Featuring A Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention Of Tony Clifton" and "The Zen Diaries Of Garry Shandling" seem like the best Hollywood choices to win.

When I first wrote about "Blue Planet II," it was in the context of looking forward to this year's Emmys.
I fully expect this series' score to be nominated along with more nominations for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series and Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program -- but my readers and I won't know that until next summer.  Stay tuned.
The music was not nominated, but "Blue Planet II" earned the nomination for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series and two nominations for Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program that I predicted.  It also earned a nomination for Sir David Attenborough as Outstanding Narrator and another for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera).  I'll take the Outstanding Narrator nomination in place of a music composition nomination.

However, the BBC nature documentary series does not stand alone as the most nominated show competing for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series.  It shares that honor with "The Defiant Ones" about the role of Dr. Dre in rap and hip-hop and "Wild Wild Country" about the Rajneesh Movement and especially Rajneeshpuram, each also with five nominations.  The other nominees in the category, "American Masters" and "The Fourth Estate," only have the one nomination for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series.  The nominee I expected in addition to "Blue Planet II" was "The Defiant Ones," which won Best Music Film at the Grammy Awards.  I wrote then "I expect to blog about it again, as it will be eligible for this year's Emmy Awards" and, sure enough, I am.  As a show business entry with a message of African-American struggle and empowerment as well as cross-racial friendship, themes that would attract an anti-Trump Hollywood electorate, it would be the nominee I think would be favored if all things were equal.  I don't think they are, as the team behind "Blue Planet II" is the same one behind "Planet Earth II," which won two Emmy Awards last year, so I think it's still the favorite.  The other nominee that might attract votes based on anti-Trump sentiment is "The Fourth Estate," which follows the reporters of the New York Times.  That didn't help "The Post" win any Oscars despite its nominations, so I don't think it will push "The Fourth Estate" onto the podium next month.

Just the same, my analysis is not complete without looking at the numbers.  Again, using my points system of one point for a nomination and two for a win, "Blue Planet II" has 22 points, "The Defiant Ones" has 20, "Wild Wild Country" has five, "American Masters" has three for the current season, and "The Fourth Estate" has one.  By this measure, "The Defiant Ones" is indeed the strongest competition for "Blue Planet II."

Follow over the jump for the rest of the categories in which these shows and their competitors are nominated.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Happy World Honey Bee Day 2018!

Just as National Day Calendar informed me that yesterday was National Nonprofit Day, it told me that today, the third Saturday in August, is World Honey Bee Day.  Since bees have been a continuing topic of this blog, this is exactly the kind of holiday I should celebrate.*

Here's the description.
Beekeepers, honey lovers and all blooming things in nature make note that the third Saturday in August in World Honey Bee Day.

Recognizing not only the honey bee but the beekeepers who tend to hives, World Honey Bee Day encourages everyone to enjoy and buy locally grown honey.

  • Collect and spread local wildflower seeds to promote honey bee pollination.
  • Flavors of honey will vary depending on the variety of flowers and nectar available to the bees.
  • Clover, alfalfa, lavender, orange, and chestnut are just a few to choose from.
  • Replace your usual sweetener with honey for the day. Taste the difference!
  • Give the gift of honey to a friend, neighbor, co-worker or family member.
  • Don’t forget to share with your honey, too! Use #WorldHoneyBeeDay to post on social media.

World Honey Bee Day began as National Honey Bee Day in 2009 with a proclamation issued by the Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas J. Vilsek. The day grew rapidly bringing awareness to the benefits and environmental needs of honey bees.
Follow over the jump for three videos about the day plus one about what would happen if bees died out.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Support Coffee Party USA on National Nonprofit Day

Thanks to National Day Calendar, I found out that today is National Nonprofit Day.*  As a director and officer of Coffee Party USA, a nonprofit organization, that's a special day to me.  In particular, I found the site's explanation of the importance of nonprofits informative and inspirational.
Somewhere a volunteer reads to school children; a patient receives steady medication; a lawyer provides legal services for low-income individuals; a nonprofit funeral home buries a lost soul; or a first-time homebuyer is moving into his own home. On August 17, National Nonprofit Day (NND) reminds us that each of these scenes is possible because of the nonprofit sector and the work performed by capable men, women and organizations.

NND recognizes more than nonprofits’ primary altruistic goals (awareness, research, and aid); it also acknowledges the added positive impacts they have on communities and the world.

For example, following the recent U.S. recession, in 2012 the nonprofit sector provided 5.4% of the nation’s entire GDP (gross domestic product), or $887.3 billion; continuously employing nurses, web developers, lawyers, computer engineers and more (sources: John Hopkins and Tactical Philanthropy Advisors reports).
That's an impressive share of the nation's economy as well as an inspirational list of good deeds.  It makes me glad to be doing my part in the nonprofit world.

I'm not the only person favorably impressed by the role of nonprofits.  The Freeholders of Monmouth County Government are as well.

Monmouth County Freeholder Gerry Scharfenberger, Ph.D., highlights the vital role nonprofit organizations have in Monmouth County. He reminds the public of the County's Faith-Based Initiative as a way to connect residents with services provided through nonprofits.
I'm glad Dr. Scharfenberger and his colleagues are putting their money where their mouths are with nonprofits.  May they continue to support worthy efforts.

Speaking of supporting worthy efforts, it's time for a description of all the things Coffee Party USA has been doing the past year as well as an appeal for support.  To see and hear both, watch this report from the Coffee Party USA Yearly In-Person Board Meeting 2017 by fellow director Egberto Willies.†

During the annual, in-person board meeting (Aug 24-27), the Coffee Party directors watched as Hurricane Harvey approached the Texas coast. And we continued planning.

We reviewed the 640 responses to our annual survey. We reviewed Coffee Party mission and vision statements with core values. We reviewed the five end-state goals that break out into the 15 issues with Coffee Party positions. We discussed the need for a unified Coffee Party voice, and a better plan to communicate the Coffee Party voice effectively. And the need to upgrade the Coffee Party website.

We persisted in laying out a focus and goals for the next fiscal year. The result? Coffee Party USA will highlight our Electoral Reform end state goal through the 2018 election to help make sure our voices of civility and reason cut through the bias and polarization. We will be heard.
Coffee Party USA has been busy this past year doing everything in the video that our resources allow.  To support these efforts, the actions the Board of Directors will decide on next week at the 2018 annual retreat, and Coffee Party USA's mission of "building, nurturing and connecting communities to reclaim our government for the people," become a member.  One can also donate without becoming a member.  Either way, the other directors and I will thank you, even if you won't get a tax deduction (Coffee Party USA is a 501c4 organization under the tax code).

Just the same, anyone who contributes to us will know that they did their best to help make American government more responsive to the people instead of corporations and anyone who uses our website will benefit from a better user experience.  As the image below says, become a member today!

Coffee Party on!

Follow over the jump for the footnotes.

R.I.P. Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin died in Detroit yesterday morning, something that people here had known was coming for days.  Franklin was a Detroit icon whose songs were adopted by both the Civil Rights and women's movements and she was also someone honored by four U.S. Presidents of both parties for her musical achievements.  ABC News featured all of those in its video obituary, 'The Queen of Soul' Aretha Franklin dies at the age of 76.

She was an 18-time Grammy winner and the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
That was a beautiful tribute that captured all the public highlights of her life.

CBC's The National focused on Franklin's importance to the people of The Motor City in Detroit mourns Aretha Franklin, a hometown hero.

Detroit is in mourning following the death of Aretha Franklin, who was to many, a hometown hero and synonymous with the city. CBC News went to Detroit, to find out how her loss is affecting residents.
Of course, if I want a local angle, I will go to a local station for it.  WXYZ had that in Brenda Lawrence remembers the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin.

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence remembers Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul.
Through Lawrence, I can claim two degrees of separation from Franklin.  Not only does Lawrence represent the congressional district across the street from my house, I also sat right behind her at Oakland County Democratic Party meetings when she was still Mayor of Southfield.  But enough bragging, as this is about Franklin, not me.

WXYZ captured how important Franklin was to musical and cultural figures all over the country in Celebrities, public figures mourn death of Detroit icon Aretha Franklin.

Celebrities and public figures mourned the death of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
R.I.P. Aretha.  You will be missed, even as your music lives on.  May your memory be as uniting in death as you were in life.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Defunctland on Space Mountain for National Roller Coaster Day

Happy National Roller Coaster Day!
Each year on August 16th, you will find people at amusement parks and theme parks across the country participating in National Roller Coaster Day.

J.G. Taylor received one of the earliest patents for an inclined railway in 1872.  In 1878, Richard Knudsen received a patent for an inclined-plane railway.  For years, history has believed the first roller coaster in America opened at Coney Island on June 16, 1884.

Thanks to the digital age and many archived news papers being digitized, and article was discovered reporting the anticipated excitement of J.G. Taylor’s elevated railway in 1872 at Rocky Point, Rhode Island. According to the Providence Evening Press from June 18, 1872, the reporter describes a ride of 400 feet where nine passengers are given a shove and gravity does the rest. 

The oldest roller coasters are believed to have originated from the so-called “Russian Mountains.”  Built in the 17th century, these were specially constructed hills of ice that were located near Saint Petersburg, Russia.  The slides were made to a height of 70 to 80 feet consisting of a 50-degree drop and were reinforced by wooden supports.

A roller coaster consists of one or multiple cars on a track, similar to a specialized railroad system that rises in designed patterns, sometimes with one or more vertical loops.


Celebrate by visiting an amusement park near you and enjoying a roller coaster ride.  If you cannot get to a roller coaster, make plans for your next roller coaster adventure! Use #RollerCoasterDay to post on social media.


National Roller Coaster Day has been celebrated since a 1986 proclamation by a national newspaper according to the website However, we were unable to identify the newspaper or the reason for proclaiming the day on August 16. None of the patents issued either to Richard Knudsen, J.G. Taylor or any other inventor of their time were applied for or granted on that date. None of the roller coasters opened on that date. Whatever the reason, National Roller Coaster Day recognizes the amazing thrills the rides continue to provide as well as nostalgic feelings they stir up.
As my readers can tell, I'm in an "I can't be all DOOM all the time" mood.  Being serious, or at least taking a silly take on a serious topic, for nearly three weeks straight is getting to me.  So here is a science fiction take on a light topic, roller coasters, from Defunctland: The History of Disney's Best Coaster, Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon.

The conclusion of Defunctland's two episode dissection of the Euro Disney resort. This time, Kevin discusses the history of Discovery Mountain, aka Space Mountain: De La Terre a La Lune, aka Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon, and eventually known as Space Mountain: Mission 2.
And now, a song for the holiday: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Love Rollercoaste.

"Love Rollercoaster" was covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1996. This version includes a rap performed by lead singer Anthony Kiedis, and the horn section is replaced with an approximation played on kazoos. The version appears on the soundtrack for the animated feature film Beavis and Butt-head Do America. An animated music video was made for the song, featuring Beavis, Butt-head, and the band riding an amusement park roller coaster, intercut with scenes from the film. The song is played early in the movie as well, when Beavis and Butt-head arrive in Las Vegas. In the dance hall scene, a fictional funk band is shown performing the song live (the one appearing on the background of the single cover). The song didn't enter the top 10, but it did hit #14 on the Modern Rock Tracks.
For some drinks, I'm sharing 5 MUST-GET Disney World Drinks for 2018!

It's no secret that Disney World is ALWAYS changing their lineup of food and drink offerings, and today we wanted to show off a couple of our favorite drinks that are new or that we want to make sure you don't miss out on!
That should be enough stress relief for both my readers and me.  I promise to be more serious tomorrow, when it's National Nonprofit Day.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Vox and Verge Science on California's year-round fire season

Two days ago, I mentioned Califoria's record heat and wildfires in 2018 on track to be fourth-warmest ever.  Yesterday, both became the subject of a video by Vox that asked Why is California always on fire?

Humans are making the problem worse. Can we get out of nature’s way, for our own good?
Wildfires are intensifying in California — but “wild”fires might be a misnomer at this point, because humans are responsible for why they’ve gotten so out of control. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 84 percent of fires are started by humans. The Carr fire in northern California, for example, was sparked by the rim of car with a flat tire.

If you look at where California’s population is growing and getting denser, you’ll see that more and more people are building in areas that are at risk, increasing the potential for costly destruction — 2017 was the most expensive year on record, topping $10 billion in damages.

Since we drastically exacerbated this problem, can we swing it back the other way? The impact of man-made climate change is unlikely to reverse. And people continue to build in dangerous areas, with no sign of stopping. By 2050, there could be over 640,000 new homes built in the path of wildfires.
All that explains why and how California's brush and forest fires have become so intense and damaging.  It does not explain why the fire season, which went from August to October when I was growing up in Los Angeles, extended from April to January in 2014 and now seems to last all year long.  I blamed climate change in 2013 when the season went from May to January.  So does Verge Science in Why wildfire season never stops.

In the Western United States, “fire season” isn’t seasonal anymore — it’s year-round. Because more and more, wildfires are a thoroughly man-made disaster and are technically a misnomer. Here, we take a car and drone tour through some of the most fire-prone parts of California, and see firsthand the causes and effects of “fire season” that just keep getting worse and worse.
It's time to revive a line I first wrote in 2013 and used most recently in 2017, welcome to the 400 ppm world.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah respond to Alex Jones removal from social media

Just as Late night comedians on Space Force for Presidential Joke Day followed Pence on Space Force, late night comedians responded to Alex Jones removed from Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify.  The one who played it the straightest was Trevor Noah, who reported on Venezuela’s Assassination Scare & Alex Jones’s Media Exile for "The Daily Show."

A drone attack targets the Venezuelan president, Osama bin Laden’s son marries the daughter of a 9/11 hijacker, and major tech companies ban Alex Jones from their platforms.
"Media exile" — that's a good way to put it.

Noah is hardly Jones' biggest nemesis among late night comedians.  That title belongs to Stephen Colbert, who has mocked Alex Jones repeatedly as "Tuck Buckford."  Of course Colbert returned as the character, proclaiming Tuck Buckford Will Not Be Silenced.

Conspiracy radio broadcaster Tuck Buckford expresses outrage over Silicon Valley's decision to remove his show 'Brain Fight' from mainstream platforms.
Yes, Jones has been removed from Pinterest.  According to Tech Crunch, he's also been removed from Stitcher (a podcast app), YouPorn (hahahaha, he's banned from a porn site), LinkedIn (so much for professional networking), MailChimp (so much for his email), and Vimeo (what passes for a rival to YouTube tossed him, too) in addition to Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify.  That's ten platforms and even more accounts.

That would qualify Jones for an award that I gave out sparingly when I was trolling the men's rights movement and Art Bell fans on Usenet, Kenny McCormick Memorial Medal, named after the "South Park" character who dies over and over, only to return the next episode.  To qualify for that award, a candidate had to lose five accounts for abuse.  That almost never happened; I think I ran elections for that maybe twice over a three year period, when I ran elections every month.  In one week, Jones has qualified for the award twice over.  I may no longer be the Friendly Neighborhood Vote Wrangler, but I still think Jones deserves the medal, so here is an image to honor Jones' dubious achievement.

Congratulations!  May Jones' accounts not be like Kenny, returning from the dead at the start of the next episode.

Monday, August 13, 2018

2018 on track to be fourth-warmest ever

When I last checked in on climate and weather extremes, I reported Record heat scorches southern California and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere.  That hot summer has continued and the result is that 2018 Is Shaping Up to Be the Fourth-Hottest Year. Yet We’re Still Not Prepared for Global Warming according to the New York Times.
This summer of fire and swelter looks a lot like the future that scientists have been warning about in the era of climate change, and it’s revealing in real time how unprepared much of the world remains for life on a hotter planet.

The disruptions to everyday life have been far-reaching and devastating. In California, firefighters are racing to control what has become the largest fire in state history. Harvests of staple grains like wheat and corn are expected to dip this year, in some cases sharply, in countries as different as Sweden and El Salvador. In Europe, nuclear power plants have had to shut down because the river water that cools the reactors was too warm. Heat waves on four continents have brought electricity grids crashing.

And dozens of heat-related deaths in Japan this summer offered a foretaste of what researchers warn could be big increases in mortality from extreme heat. A study last month in the journal PLOS Medicine projected a fivefold rise for the United States by 2080. The outlook for less wealthy countries is worse; for the Philippines, researchers forecast 12 times more deaths.

Globally, this is shaping up to be the fourth-hottest year on record. The only years hotter were the three previous ones. That string of records is part of an accelerating climb in temperatures since the start of the industrial age that scientists say is clear evidence of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
About the only good news is that this year will be cooler than 2017, the second hottest year on record according to NASA.  That's the global picture.  A lot of localities will see new high temperature records set.  Newsy reported on one of them, July was California's hottest month on record

The heat certainly contributed to California's intense wildfire season.
That was July.  The heat has continued in my old home town of Woodland Hills, where CBS Los Angeles reported from there about triple-digit temperatures.

People were out and about trying to figure out how to cope with SoCal's most recent heat wave. Lisa Sigell reports.
Hey, I swam in that pool as a kid, so this report literally hits home.  Also, I don't remember heat waves this bad or this frequent growing up, so things have definitely changed.

Speaking of heat waves, one is hitting Europe as well.  The New York Times reported on that in Scorching Summer in Europe Signals Long-Term Climate Changes.
In Northern Europe, this summer feels like a modern-day version of the biblical plagues. Cows are practically dying of thirst in Switzerland, fires are gobbling up timber in Sweden, the majestic Dachstein glacier is melting in Austria.

In London, stores are running out of fans and air-conditioners. In Greenland, an iceberg may break off a piece so large that it could trigger a tsunami that destroys settlements on shore. Last week, Sweden’s highest peak, Kebnekaise mountain, no longer was in first place after its glacier tip melted.

Southern Europe is even hotter. Temperatures in Spain and Portugal are expected to reach 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit this weekend. On Saturday, several places in Portugal experienced record highs, and over the past week, two people have died in Spain from the high temperatures, and a third in Portugal.
“In the past, we had this kind of heat wave once every 10 years, and now we have them every two years or something like that,” said François-Marie Bréon, a climatologist and deputy director of the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Science, a research institute affiliated with France’s National Center for Scientific Research. “That’s really the sign of climate change: We have heat waves that aren’t necessarily more intense but that are more and more frequent.”
Words are one thing, but images are another.  To see them, watch Europe sizzles as heatwave continues from Euronews, which came out after the New York Times article.

Firefighters in Portugal and Spain were on high alert over the weekend as the heatwave continued across Europe…
All of that is in the present.  What about the future?  Euronews has an answer to that in Heatwave Deaths: Global study predicts dramatic increase in fatalities.

Global study predicts dramatic increase in heatwave deaths due to climate change.
Not only is climate change here, but it's going to get worse.  Unless people prepare and try to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, thousands more will die every year from heat waves, to say nothing of the other effects of increasing temperature, changing rainfall, and rising sea levels.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and NASA all nominees at the 70th Emmy Awards

For this week's Sunday entertainment feature, I'm returning to the Primetime and Creative Arts Emmy Awards to recognize three regular subjects of my blogging here, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and NASA, all of whom have nominated shows at this year's Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

I begin with Bill Nye Saves The World.  The Netflix series has earned a nomination for Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Reality, or Reality-Competition Series.  This is almost identical to the nomination it earned last year for Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Nonfiction, Reality, or Reality Competition Programming.  Congratulations on the near-repeat!  On the other hand, Nye's series is competing against "Dancing With The Stars," "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver" (the episode on the now-dead Sinclair-Tribune merger and long-dead Warren G. Harding I already wrote about), "Saturday Night Live," and "The Voice."  "Saturday Night Live" won this Emmy Award last year and I think it's favored again this year.  As I wrote last year, "Bill Nye and Netflix should just be happy to get the nomination."

"Bill Nye Saves The World" missed out on being renominated for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming this year, a category it lost to "13th" last year.  I'm not surprised, as this year's nominees compose a tough field, which I plan on writing about later.  In the meantime, here is the Official Trailer for Season Two.

He's a science guy. An entertainer. A spiffy dresser. And he's back to drop some knowledge on life-changing topics.
Once again, I'll have to watch this show; I know my students are.

"StarTalk With Neil deGrasse Tyson" earned a fourth nomination for Outstanding Informational Series or Special, a repeat from last year.  This joins its nomination for Reality Television at the 2018 EMA Awards, where I mentioned its Emmy nomination.
I'd have rooted for "StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson," as it was nominated for an Emmy last year and again this year.  It lost to "Vice," which it is competing against for Outstanding Informational Series or Special this year, just as it was last year.  I'll be writing about both later, especially "Vice," which also has nine News and Documentary Emmy nominations.
I doubt either "StarTalk" or "Vice" will win.  Instead, I think it will be either “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” which won this category last year, or Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, which won the category the four years before that.  Because of Bourdain's recent suicide, I suspect his show has the inside track.  As for "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman," I will tell the show and Netflix the same thing I said about "Bill Nye Saves the World," just be happy to be nominated.

I'll write about "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" and its competitors in the other six categories in which it is nominated later, but before I do, I'm being a good environmentalist and recycling what I wrote in June.
I'm sure I'll be writing about Emmy nominations for both Bourdain and "Parts Unknown" next month, just as I will for R.I.P. Stephen Hawking 1942-2018.  Those will be bittersweet experiences.
"Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places" was not renominated at the News and Documentary Emmy Awards this year, but he was a guest in an episode of StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

As tribute to the life and works of world-renowned Stephen Hawking, host Neil deGrasse Tyson’s recent StarTalk interview with the groundbreaking theoretical physicist. Also featuring astrophysicist Janna Levin, comedian Matt Kirshen, physicist Michio Kaku, and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
That sort of makes up for the lack of a nomination for Hawking.

Follow over the jump for NASA/JPL's nomination as well as two nominees that I consider to be honorary entries about space.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Late night comedians on Space Force for Presidential Joke Day

It's National Presidential Joke Day, for which I promised "some late night humor at Donald Trump's expense" when I concluded Pence on Space Force plus space law from Vintage Space, a Veep Day bonus.  It turns out that Veep Mike Pence's announcement about Space Force provided the perfect subject matter for today, which is "a day to recognize the humor often found and yet not so appreciated in the highest office in the land."

I begin with space enthusiast Stephen Colbert, who first mocked the idea on March 13th of this year, when he included Trump Presents 'Space Force: Episode Dumb' in his monologue.

Today Donald Trump is calling for a space military. Tomorrow he'll be calling for a space military parade.
Colbert spent about two-and-one-half minutes on the topic five months ago.  Last night, he devoted six minutes to Mike Pence Tries To Make Space Force Sound Less Dumb.

Vice President Mike Pence successfully gave a serious speech about Space Force while keeping a straight face.
The way Colbert shouted out "Space Force" reminded me of the music I heard in my head the first time I read about the idea, the theme from "Space Ghost."

I'm surprised the band didn't play the theme.  Then again, the members may be too young to know it.

Follow over the jump for more jokes about Space Force from Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, and Samantha Bee.